Eight Things Booksellers Would Like Self Published Authors to Know


Eight Things Booksellers Would Like Self Published Authors to Know

I was a bookseller for eleven years before injury forced me to find a different career. In that time, I met a LOT of self-published authors and noticed a few areas where my experience as a bookseller could help make their book signing more successful (and make my life easier). Here are some things self published authors might like to know:

1. Making sure your title is available for bookstores to order is an important first step.

Bookstores don’t have access to all titles and, for corporate stores like Barnes and Noble, we can’t sell your title unless it’s in our system and available from one of our distributors. Independent bookstores are much more likely to be able to accept copies you bring from home, but each one is different, so it’s important to do some preliminary research. The more available your book, the easier it will be to make sales.

Recommendation: before setting up a book signing, do research on how to get your title accepted into the bookstores you are considering.

2. Make sure your title is returnable (specifically for national bookstore chains).

With literally millions of titles in publication, it makes sense that real estate in a bookstore is a high commodity. With so many titles vying for space, most bookstores are reluctant to order anything that can’t be returned, especially in the quantities required for a signing event.

Recommendation: if your book has already been accepted into the distribution system, ask how to make your title returnable. I’m told it’s a fairly simple process, but be aware it isn’t a free service.

3. Bookstores typically don’t have a budget to promote your signing event.

The hard truth of the matter is, bookstores are approached by countless self published authors who rarely make enough sales at an event to justify promotional expenditures. Even promotion for New York Times best-selling authors are supported by publishers, the authors themselves (yes, even highly successful authors promote their own events), and social media. There are exceptions to this, but be prepared to handle your own advertising.

Recommendation: if you want people to show up, there are several things you can do – print flyers (or even better, bookmarks) for booksellers to bag-stuff ; ask if you can set up a display a few weeks early with the event info; boost ads on social media; or take out an ad in the paper. The opportunities are there, and go beyond what I’ve listed, you just have to be willing to put in the effort.

4. Take an active role in your signing event.

Most events are schedules for high-traffic days, which makes sense because authors want to engage as many people as possible. From a sales standpoint, booksellers prefer this also. From a logistical standpoint, these days can be so busy that booksellers have a difficult time disengaging themselves from customer service long enough to give your event the attention it needs. Booksellers have the best intentions to set you up for success, but don’t always have the human resources to make it happen. Therefore, the more involved you can be in preparing for and setting up your event, the better.

Recommendation: Promoting your book ahead of time is a great place to start (see #3). Arrive early and help organize your station. Anything you can bring to draw attention to your book is also helpful. I’ve seen authors show up with balloons, stuffed animals, posters, candy trays, and all other sorts of things to attract attention, and the extra effort usually pays off.

whoa25. Your self published book is probably not going to be competitively priced.

In the self publishing industry, there is a noticeable correlation between quality and price. Unfortunately, self publishing facilities don’t have the resources to print at a high enough volume to make the cost per unit competitive. You can sacrifice quality (to a degree) for a lower price, but overall cover appeal plays a role in your book’s marketability. Traditionally published trade paperbacks usually run from $9.99 to $14.99, whereas I’ve seen self published TPs anywhere from $15.00 to $30.00. It’s important to be aware of this disadvantage when asking people to take a chance on your title.

Recommendation: there’s just no getting around the price/volume equation of publishing economics, which is why so many self published authors opt for digital publishing (or poor quality copies). The only thing you can do is consider your market strategy very carefully before going to print.

6. Booksellers don’t want to be hassled about your book.

Meaning: save your soliciting for the customers. We know way more about what’s available to read than the average person and have already decided before we meet you whether or not we want to read your book. Talking about it with us is okay. Pestering us to read it is not. You want to leave booksellers with a general knowledge of your book’s premise, but you also want to leave us with a positive experience. Your goal shouldn’t be to sell to us, but to garner a good relationship.

Recommendation: if you really want booksellers to read your book, provide a free copy a few months ahead of your signing. This gives employees a chance to check out the title with zero pressure and ample time to read it beforehand. This method usually gets the best response, in my experience.

7. Content quality matters.

This, I have found, is the biggest difference between traditional and self published titles. The editing process of big publishing houses is more than just fixing grammar errors and running spellcheck. They invest tons of time and money getting a manuscript ready for market, which is why they’re so picky. They’re only willing to financially back projects they believe will make them the most money. It all comes back to the quality of the content. If you want any chance of standing out in an industry that publishes a million titles every year, recognize that producing quality content is the best way to generate positive word-of-mouth and gain an audience.

Recommendation: “Read a lot and write a lot” (Stephen King). Study your market thoroughly. Attend seminars and workshops. Join a writing group. Acknowledge that your work is not perfect (no one’s ever is) but hard work can make a difference.

8. You are not entitled to an audience.

This seems to be the hardest truth for any author to learn (myself included). Just because you wrote something does not mean others are obligated to want to read it. Literally anyone can self publish a book, but the mere act of doing so doesn’t guarantee you readers. It takes a lot of market awareness and research to produce something with mass appeal. Even if you’ve done your homework, attended seminars, and revised until the red ink ran dry, it still doesn’t entitle you to an audience.

Recommendation: venture into the world of self publishing with a humble approach, a quality product, and rely on positive word-of-mouth and hard work to generate an audience. A sense of entitlement will only hurt your end-goal.

As always, there are exceptions to every rule, but these are the eight things I found true more often than not. At the end of the day, your success rate as a self published author is in your own hands. If this article helped you in any way, my work here is complete. 

by Niki Hawkes


Revision Hacks: Harnessing the Red Pen

Writing diaries

Once a month or so, my writing group gets together at Writer’s Ramble to share our individual experiences with the hope of inspiring other writers. This month’s topic focuses all on revision – specifically the tips and tricks we use to make the process less painful. I think every single person in my group has a different method, which is why it tickles me we’re sharing them all in one place. Even if you don’t find my Hacks helpful, you just might find your next revision epiphany in one of their posts. Just click the Writer’s Ramble link above and our world of revision will be at your fingertips…

Revision Hacks: Harnessing the Red Pen

Just as there are countless ways to write a book, so are there countless ways to revise it. There are so many different methods out there that it can be difficult for a writer to find the “best” ones. It’s all about trying as many as you can and developing your own hybrid technique for the ones that work best for you. I have had 3 major revision epiphanies within the last couple of years and I’d like to take a moment to share them with you. Who knows, maybe they will change your writing process dramatically, too. :-)

Hack #1: Prep-Work

I personally think good preparation takes out a big chunk of work in the revision process. I also think a major component of revision is cutting out the scenes that don’t either advance plot or develope character. To that end, it makes sense to have a good portion of your scenes mapped out before you begin writing. But how do you know how many scenes to plan for? Thanks to the LTUE writing conference I went to in February, I now have the answer, and it has been radically life-changing. John D. Brown and Larry Correia made it sound so simple that I almost feel stupid for not figuring it out for myself. Here’s their method:

1. Figure out how many words your novel’s genre usually requires (there are general standards in place that are pretty easy to find with a Google search).
2. Figure out the average length of your scenes (a great starting place is about 3000 words per scene).
3. Divide the genre standard by your average scene length:
65,000 ÷ 3000 = 21.6667 (approximately 22)

This means that my 65,000-words YA book should contain about 22 scenes.

Can you say EPIPHANY? I went home and played with this idea with a WIP that had at least 40 scenes, combined several of them and threw out others entirely, then brainstormed for about 10 minutes to get them into a working order (I wrote the name of each scene down on a flash card and rearrange them on the floor until I had something I liked – which is also a strategy that has worked well for me), and came away with the most concise plot structure of any book I’ve written so far. Now, I feel like it’s practically writing itself because I have such a strong guideline in place.

What’s cool about this approach is that takes away a bit of the intimidation factor. Instead of just writing endlessly until you feel like your book is finished, this structure gives you a finite number of scenes to fill. 22 scenes within which to tell a story is a lot less daunting to me than “however many scenes it takes.” There’s nothing saying you can’t either add or subtract from that number, but you’ll be able to make those decisions with more confidence because you’ll have a strong baseline.

Hack #2: Organizing

The other day I found myself in a disagreement with one of my scenes. No matter how many times I reworded it or changed what I said entirely, it just wasn’t sounding right. I had too many ideas in my head on how it could sound, but couldn’t figure out which ideas would work the best. So I typed them ALL into the document, got frustrated, and walked away. What’s worse, I picked up the latest Robin Hobb novel and was almost brought to tears over the injustice of how fricken beautiful her writing was and how easily it seemed to flow on paper… why can’t my stuff look like that? And why does it seem so much more difficult for me? After throwing a mini writer tantrum, I finally came to peace with the fact that, if I want my novels to be quality, I’m going to have to work at it until I figure out how to get it there my own way (which is, inevitably, the hard way).

So instead of tackling a writing project, I turned that scene into an organizing project:

1. I jotted down a few key things I wanted the scene to convey.
2. I highlighted key words from that list.
3. I went through the scene and highlighted only the passages that supported those keywords.
4. I cut everything else.

It gave me direction. It also gave me confidence that what was there was being kept for a definitive reason. The way I see it, there are two ways to implement this approach: write down everything you can think of first, like I’ve described above, then prioritize and organize it, OR you can start with identifying your keywords, brainstorm within each one of those, then go back and highlight the strongest bits. Either way, hopefully it will help give you clarity on the scene first or second time around. Of course, if the scene isn’t giving you trouble, then this method will probably make you overthink it. I recommend just using it for the ones that, for whatever reason, just aren’t flowing. Sometimes just being confident in what you want to say is all you need as a base to go back and make it sound pretty.

Hack #3: Change-it-up

I don’t know about you, but I find it really difficult to make major revisions within a word document. I lose my place constantly and it’s hard to see more than just a small portion of my work at once. Also, if I have any ideas on how I could reword things, I hesitate to type them in because it just makes everything more cluttered. So I print it out and write my new ideas and possible fixes right over where I think they should go. Handwritten vs. printed means it’s easy to see what your edits are while still allowing you to see how the work used to sound (does anybody else have a difficult time deleting stuff? I’m almost always afraid the new way of saying it will be worse than the old way, but if I change it in the document then I’ve lost record of the first version… might be just me though). Anyway, if I’m still not happy with it, I will grab a notebook and poor new thoughts into that.

This may not seem like a “Hack,” necessarily because I’m basically describing a typical revision process. The reason it’s a Hack for me is that I have found myself staring at the computer screen for hours, not sure how to fix something, but the minute I print it out or start to work on it in a different medium, progression suddenly starts moving forward again. Nowadays, the minute I can’t figure a solution on the computer, I immediately switch formats and have not had a “revision-block” since.

I hope you found some of these Hacks helpful. :-)

Are there any that you use that have totally changed your life? Let me know in the comments, and let’s turn this into a #WritingHackFest.

by Niki Hawkes


Writing Diaries: Who Has Time to Write? (Part II)

Writing diaries

For those of you who don’t know, I am an aspiring author currently working on my second novel. I’ve recently joined the cast of the “Word Vomit” writing group and together we post once a month about a specific writing topic on our blog The Writer’s Ramble. The idea is to get several perspectives on a different topic and use that information to help develop writing processes and styles that work for you. If you are interested in the topic we are discussing this month (finding time to write), feel free to head over (here) and check out other words of wisdom from these awesome writing people.

Who Has Time to Write? (Part II)

“What’s your writing process look like?” is the question I ask every successful author I meet. After all, these men and women have managed to take their passion for writing and turn it into a full-time career – they must be doing something right… right? When I’ve ask this question, I not only gained insight to the hard work and dedication that goes into writing great novels, but have also picked up some helpful tips along the way that have positively influenced my own writing process. In this post, I’d like to share some of those tips with you.

The first thing I picked up is that writing a novel is a long, grueling process that is meant to be taken in small steps. In Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” she indicates how important it is to allow yourself to write a “shitty first draft” that is, allowing yourself just to get the ideas on paper. If you are a constant perfectionist (much as I am) on word choice at the very beginning of the process, you aren’t going to get anywhere fast. What’s worse is that you’ll spend all this time perfecting a scene from an early draft of your story then have to scrap it later because it doesn’t fit with where the story developed. While the act of writing and perfecting a scene is good practice, there’s a time and place to do it properly that won’t stand in the way of writing your novel in a timely fashion. If I’d spent more time developing the story early on and less on finding that “perfect” word, it might not have taken me almost three years to finish the book.

The funny thing is, I actually read Lamott’s work before getting into writing, but her advice didn’t truly hit me until a conversation I had years later with Patricia Briggs.  She told me, “The biggest thing to remember is that you can always go back and fix it later. It’s more important to get the intent of what you want to say down first, then you can worry about going back to make it sound pretty.” It was great advice (as it was when Lamott gave it) but I was finally at a point where I was ready to hear it. Maybe it was because I had been through a couple years of frustrations on finding the balance between creativity and perfectionism, but whatever the reason, what Briggs had to say resonated with me – and changed the entire way I approach writing novels. Taking it to heart, I went home and wrote the first draft of my second novel from start to finish in just over a month. That’s a drastic difference from the three years it took to complete my first one.

I finally gave up on making my story pretty right away and focused solely on letting my creativity flow. Writing and editing (or perfecting, as I like to call it) take two different sides of the brain. When you’re trying to convey the story on the page, if you’re worried about proper punctuation and using the correct verbiage, you’re using tools from the left side of your brain and not allowing the right side – the creative half, do what it does best. The revision process (all that left brain stuff) is ironically also easier to do once you have all the ideas on paper because your brain doesn’t have to try and battle between making ideas concrete at the same time it’s trying to make them sound good. There are some writers who don’t need a lot of revision after they write something, but those are usually the ones who have spent years perfecting their craft, having taught themselves how to say it right the first time. With practice, you’ll notice your own writing improving, but it takes time.

Along those lines, I was lucky enough to do an interview with Partials’ author Dan Wells. I asked him the question “What’s your advice for aspiring authors” (the second question I always ask successful authors), and here’s how he responded:

Allow yourself to write a bad book. Aspiring authors tend to think they’re first book has to be perfect, because they’re going to publish it and make a zillion dollars, but that’s not how art works. A painter doesn’t get his first painting hung in a museum, and a sculptor doesn’t get her first statue into an expensive gallery, and we authors need to remember that our first works are just like theirs: they’re practice, not designed to sell but designed to teach us how to write. Finish your first book, warts and all, and then your second will be better, and your third will be better than that, and so on until your writing is awesome. I wrote five books before finally selling my sixth, and now I’ve published eight, but if I’d insisted on perfection I’d still be revising that first one, over and over, all alone in a room somewhere.

Now Wells doesn’t know me personally (beyond as that awkward fangirl he did a Q&A with) but I feel like this advice was catered specifically to me nonetheless. It carved right through my delusions as an aspiring author. I was that person alone in a room endlessly revising that first book because the idea was too zillion dollar “amazing” to let it go. In actuality, I was just finding new ways to butcher it over and over again. Maybe dissecting is a better word, as it taught me a great deal about the ins and outs of how how to write a book. After receiving this advice, I gave myself one more month to cut up my first novel and learn everything I could from it. It is now affectionately known as my “cadaver novel” (I have Nancy Farmer to thank for that terminology, as I heard her use it to refer to her own first novel in a Q&A panel) and although I might give it another shot at a later date, I resolved to set it aside for now and try something new. I got a lot of practice out of that first novel, which is probably why my second attempt went so much smoother. My writing process has definitely improved – part of that has been from my own experiences and the other part from all the great advice.

But advice on how to treat writing as a business only goes so far when you haven’t been successful enough to make it into a full-time job and don’t have eight hours a day to devote to it. Maybe the more helpful thing to ask would be “What did your writing process look like before you became successful?” It’s a lot easier to find time to write when you quit your day job, but hearing about those authors that put in fifty hours of work a week and still found the time to write their stories is incredibly inspiring. Brandon Mull told me he was in a similar situation but managed to write the first Fablehaven in just over a month. That just goes to show if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen regardless of the circumstances. You have to be willing to make the time. An incredibly insightful article by the amazing Robin Hobb tackles this concept (as a full-time writer, but I think the wisdom held within applies to all writers). She says:

The truth is, you will never have more free time than you do right now. Your life will always fill up with stuff you need to do. Even after you are successful and no longer have a day job, you will still need to get the car serviced, pull the weeds, pick up your friend at the airport, call the plumber and mop the floor, oh, and since you ‘don’t work’, can you watch your friend’s kids this afternoon? Life does not stop so that you can write a book.

So here is what you do. Get a notebook. electronic or paper, I don’t care. Paper ones never need batteries, and tend to fit better in you backpack, diaper bag or purse. I like paper. Then write. Write on the bus to work. Write while waiting for the dentist. Write between classes. Write on your lunch hour. Write during the kids’ soccer practice. In the evening, leave the room where the television is and write. It can be done. In fractions of hours, throughout the day, you can amass words like a squirrel storing nuts. At the end of the day, sit down at a keyboard, and put those words into a document…Once you start doing this, you will find your writing time. It’s there, in your life. You just need to find it. (Hint. Your writing time is not on Facebook or Twitter. Do not look for it there.)

The article continues here, and it’s definitely worth reading the entire thing. And man-oh-man does this section speak to the problems I think all aspiring authors struggle with at one point or another. I wish I had read this advice a couple of years ago, because I really had to learn it the hard way. I would go weeks waiting for the “right moment” to sit down and write. Feeling like inspiration had to strike. I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to get very far if I had to wait for the perfect mindset. Once I cracked down and started treating it like a job, however, it was amazing how much progress I could make within a single week. I remember hearing a quote along the lines of “a professional writer is someone who can force themselves to write beautifully even when they’re not in the mood.” And to be a successful writer, that’s exactly what you have to do – take matters into your own hands, figuring out what makes up the perfect “mood,” and doing everything you can to replicate it… or at the very least, fake it.

I have a few personal examples for this. It has taken me a couple of years, but I finally noticed that I’m most productive when on a schedule. And that schedule has me up several hours before I’d like to be. I am most definitely not a morning person, but I find mornings are when my house is the quietest. The earlier I get up, the more I get written. I have also discovered that an empty, stimulation-free room does not help my focus. I’ve tried it, facing a blank wall in a sparse room and I was almost immediately bored and antsy every time I sat down to write. So I decorated and moved all the furniture around in the room until it had personality and my desk faced a window (which looks out to a cool little pond surrounded by panoramic views – awesome!). Having something interesting to look at allows me to sit and create longer (I need to mention that I write everything using Dragon Dictate due to a severe wrist injury, so I’m not actually ever looking at my screen while I’m writing). Anyway, my point is, you may not be able to depend on your writing mood, but you can tailor other parts of your life to set yourself up for success.

I was lucky enough to write my second novel without having to hold a full-time job (thanks, Husband, for giving me an opportunity to chase my dreams). Hobb’s words continue to ring true to me – you always think “if only I could just do this full time, I will have all the time in the world to write,” but the reality is, you’re often faced with even more distractions, not less. I’ve always been type of person who is most productive when under time constraints. The best grades I got in college were when was working fifty hours a week between two jobs while trying to go to school full-time. I just plain didn’t have time to procrastinate, and I think the same applies to writing. The more time you have to get around to it, the more time you think, “I’ll get around to it…”

The key for me, has been making myself sit down in front of the computer. Even if I stare at the screen for an hour and don’t fix more than a couple of commas, I will know I won’t get any work done unless I make my butt sit in that chair. And you know what the funny thing is? I never sit there for more than five minutes without getting back into the writing groove. It’s like once I get over that procrastinizaitonal hump, I’m able to roll with it. Getting there is the hard part. Henry Miller said, “When you can’t create you can work,” and that advice has pushed me to work on my writing even during my worst bouts of writer’s block. Heck, sometimes it’s even the cure – as if being willing to sit there and focus is all your brain needed to come up with the answers. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself start scanning Facebook. I talk a lot about dealing with distractions in my Who Has Time to Write? (Part I) post, so I will leave it at that.

It’s all about helping your brain jump back into the story as soon as you sit down to write. I found it helpful to half-meditate and think about my story whenever I have a spare moment. When you relax your mind, you’d be amazed how many revelation or “ah, ha!” moments strike you when you’re consistently immersing yourself in your story (for me, inspiration usually happens at about three in the morning. I could kick myself for the number of times I didn’t get up and immediately write it down – so many good thoughts lost).

In some cases, the time you spend thinking about your story is just as important as the time you spend writing it. When I asked Kimberly Derting about her writing process before she became a writer, she spoke to many of the same points. Having several kids at home, and a full-time job on top of that, Derting didn’t have a lot of time to actually sit down and write her story. What she did was make sure she seized opportunities to let the story build in her mind. Instead of listening to audiobooks on her long commute to work, she started using the time to think about her stories.

That percolation process makes a difference, allowing your subconscious to come up with new ideas and solutions. If you absolutely can’t take time to sit in front of the computer, make sure you are at least take advantage of those quiet moments. But please, carry something to write it down… I can’t tell you how many great ideas I’ve forgotten because I didn’t have anything handy to write on. In fact, the biggest indication of my progress as a writer was when I started toting around a small notebook.

I think the moral of the story is, even though everybody’s writing process is a little different, there are things all writers can do to find more time to write and make the most of that time. The best thing you can do for yourself is to try different methods until you find something that works for you. If you don’t take it from me, take it from these successful authors. Writing a novel takes a lot of time, and to be successful you have to be willing to put in the hours improving your crafts and producing stories to the best of your ability. Malcolm Gladwell claims “It takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field” and, chances are, you have to make time for every last one of them.

by Niki Hawkes


Robin Hobb’s Blog – “I Want to be a Writer, But…”:
Wisdom Group – “10,000 Hours of Practice”:



Writing Diaries: Writing Satisfying Endings

Writing diaries

The Writer’s Ramble Edition!

Writer’s Ramble is a monthly multi-blog feature put together by members of my writing group (fantastically known as “Word Vomit”). Every month, we all share our thoughts on a specific writing topic and combine them all in a one-stop hub of information on our Writers’ Ramble website. I am stoked to be among such talented and insightful writers, and have learned a ton about the craft of writing in the short time I’ve been with them. All I’m saying is, if you find the topic of the month enticing, head over to  for even more advice from these amazing writers and leave with a brain full of writing awesomeness.

How To Write Satisfying Endings

A lot more goes into writing a great ending then most people realize. There are so many elements to consider, everything from conflict resolutions to character growth, and they all have to weave their way to a single, satisfying ending. In this post, I’ll present my four essential elements of story endings and speculate on why some strategies work better than others when concluding a story.

Pictured below are the books that contain my all time favorite endings:


As a reader, I reveled in these endings for months, talking about them as often as I could; and that’s what great endings do – they make you want to share the experience with other readers. I knew I’d love them, but couldn’t really pinpoint why. Now, analyzing them from a writer’s perspective, it’s clear to me that each of these books have a handful of common attributes – ones that I feel are essential elements in crafting a good ending:

1. Momentum

I’ve always preferred endings that result from the culmination of many events. The sort of story progression that starts to build momentum near the middle of the book before careening towards the end – taking the reader along for the ride in the process. It’s all leading up to that moment where everything falls into place – the conflicts reach a climax, the hero fulfills his destiny, and things work out the way they’re supposed to. You know the ones I’m talking about, the books that keep you up until 3 AM on work nights because you just can’t bring yourself to put them down? It all comes down to good momentum. Granted, you can have all of those things without good momentum, but the books that really stick with me all have that hold-your-breath/can’t-put-it-down excitement that make the journey so much more satisfying.

2. Emotional Investment

That’s right, relatability of the main characters throughout a novel plays a huge role in how I feel about the ending. While this attribute seems a given, it is amazing to me how many authors don’t take the time to get the readers emotionally invested in their protagonists. How you build your conflicts around the characters and how they progress an developed through each trial are probably the most important elements of storytelling. If a novel lacks those essential conflicts and development, it’s almost impossible to get me worked up about an ending… even an unbearably sad one. Meanwhile authors who can make me truly care about the character and their conflicts have the power to turn me into a sobbing mess.

3. Feeling “Right”

Any of you who have heard the mixed reviews for the ending of “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth know how subjective a “good” ending can be. A lot of it comes down to the individual tastes and expectations of the reader. I’m one of the people dissatisfied with the ending of the Divergent trilogy and, as I’ve finally managed to figure out why, I’ll explain my reasoning [without spoilers].

Although it’s nearly impossible to please everyone, and ending that makes sense within the framework of the story will generally satisfy most people. In my opinion, Allegiant’s ending wasn’t the logical result of the culmination of events that had preceded it. The momentum leading up to the ending, and in fact the conflicts themselves had the potential to be profound, but instead felt contrived and random.

That’s not to say it a great ending needs to be predictable, it just needs to make sense. I would go so far as to say that unpredictable endings are the best, provided the reader can look back and see a logical progression of how it got there. Essentially, just make sure your ending makes sense in hindsight. Good or bad, an ending has to feel “right” to the reader.

4. Resolution

All of the books I love for their endings have clear conflict resolutions and completed story arcs. The resolutions don’t have to be happy ones, but I will admit I like them better when they are, and I don’t think I’m alone. Marg McAlister Writing 4 Success said it best:

“Most readers treat a novel as an escape from the real world. In the real world, things go wrong; sometimes consequences are dire. A book, however, offers an opportunity to spend a few hours in a happier place, where (mostly) things work out in the end. Authors should keep this in mind.”

Note that McAlister didn’t say specifically not to kill off characters, she just said things needed to work themselves out. If characters need to die to make that happen, be very conscious when that their deaths aren’t for nothing (or worse, for shock value… Mockingjay, I’m talking to you). I understand that sometimes a story calls for a heart-wrenching ending, I’m just not someone who enjoys reading them often. A book that makes me cry because I’m happy always sticks with me longer than one that makes me cry because I’m sad. It’s okay to write a story where things don’t work out for the best, but you might lose a bit of audience appeal, removing that instant urge to recommend it to other people.

Combining the Attributes

Whether you’re writing a stand-alone novel or a twenty book series, focus on building that great momentum, investing the reader in your characters, and resolving your conflicts – letting all of these things influence what the “right” ending should be. In my opinion, having a good ending is almost more important than having a good beginning. The best advertising you can get for your book is word-of-mouth, and a great ending will get people talking!


So how does YOUR ending stack up? Jennifer Bosworth in an article featured on the official NaNoRiMo Blog provides a few great questions to ask yourself during revision:

  • Have I set up the ending of this story, or does it come out of nowhere? Have I been too obvious about my set-up, making the ending predictable?
  • Have my main characters arced? Have they completed a transformative journey? 
  • Does my ending support the theme of the book?

I’ve added a few more:

  • Does your ending have a good lead-up (in other words, does it have sufficient momentum?)
  • Have the main conflicts been resolved?
  • Have the characters ended up where you feel they should?

Knowing a little bit about what the expectations for a good ending can go a long way in helping you shape your story. I hope you found my breakdown helpful.

Don’t forget to check out advice from our other contributors (here) – you never know what bit of information will spark a solution for your own writing. The more you know, the closer you are to becoming a successful writer!

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2014!

Top ten Tuesday pink

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2014!

 Reading 1 – 5:

1. Stick to my new “Read 4, Buy 1” rule to A. Save more money and B. Enjoy the thousands of books I already own and C. Make me more selective of what I bring home.

 2. Read only the books I’m most excited about, rather than the ones I feel obligated to read.

3. Continue streamlining my book collection, getting rid of everything I won’t read within the next ten years. 

4. Stop worrying about how many books and series I have in progress and just enjoy whatever has caught my interest at the moment.

 5. Limit my Netgalley and Edelweiss requests to only the special ones, thereby furthering the intent of goal #1.

 Writing 6 – 10:

 6. Finish the first draft of my novel by January 31.

  7. Finish the final draft by March 31.

 8. Write and submit a short story for WOTF.

 9. Work on a writing project every single day – even if it only a ten minute scene outline.

 10. Start working on my current novel’s sequel (much later in the year, of course).

I’ve always been a person who enjoys setting and achieving goals, but have never had new year resolutions. I always do everything I set my mind to, but it will be interesting to see how I handle a specific timeframe. Wish me luck!

What are your 2014 resolutions? Are any of them bookish?

by Niki Hawkes


Writing Diaries – Who Has Time to Write?

Writing diaries

I don’t know about you, but I often have difficulty finding the time to write. Between work, family, friends, and the obscene amount of time I spend composing this blog, I’m lucky if I write more than 5000 words a week. This is especially ironic because one of the main reasons I started the blog was to build a platform for my future novel (but has since developed into a passion all its own). It saps up most of my creative energy, leaving me with the constant mental state of “I’ll make up for it tomorrow…”

Writing a novel is difficult for many reasons, but the biggest one is nurturing that motivation to keep going. As most budding writers can relate, it takes a great deal of your free time with few gratifications – even once the story is complete. You have to really want to make it work. I don’t even remember what free time looks like anymore because, if I have a moment to myself, I’m either writing or stressing about writing (which is totally unproductive and not relaxing in the least). The trick is to figure out a schedule that will allow you to feel like you’re making strides within your novel while not placing unreasonable expectations on yourself.

Life gets in the way, and it does your creative energies no good to stress if you don’t have a chance to sit down at the computer every day. When this happens, I’ll take a moment to think about my next scene and maybe jot down some notes in the notebook I always carry with me. Even though I’m not writing, I’m still immersing myself in my story. Doing this allowed my subconscious to continue developing ideas that have led to several “ah-ha” moments throughout the project. I also find it much easier to pick up where I left off when I do this because the ideas have been percolating for days.

So now I have a rhythm down that works for me and my writing processes in all areas but one – when it comes to choosing between blogging and writing, the blog wins every time. They use the same sort of creative mental energy but one gives me instant gratification while the other seems a thankless task. I’ve recently tried to counter this by limiting the amount of posts I do per week to four, rather than the seven I was doing before. It it irritates me to do this because I have enough ideas and content to fill the blog 365 days a year so I’ve had to make some sacrifices. I’ve cut out a book club feature (which took the most effort for the least payoff), limited my other features (such as this one) to be written only after I’ve committed time to my novel for the day, and continued with two book reviews per week. I always see posts from other bloggers explaining why they have slowed down in their content and laugh a bit because I seldom noticed until they pointed it out. I figured the same would be true for my readers. As long as I am consistent with book reviews – the stars of the blog – I’d still be in good shape.

Since I made the change, I’ve noticed a remarkable increase in my amount of creative energy, and am much more able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities to write than I ever have before. Incidentally, my average books read per week has nearly doubled, effectively relieving any stress I felt at having things to review. Overall, it is allowed me to start off NaNoWriMo of with a bang and puts me in a great position to have the first draft of my novel completed by the end of the month… Wish me luck!

 What about you? How do you find the balance between life and writing? What kinds of schedules work for you?

by Niki Hawkes